THE tears just flowed – immediately after the competition, during the interview and then on the podium.
After a 13-year-wait, Pandelela Rinong finally won a second Asian Games individual medal in her pet event – the women’s 10m platform individual.
And the joy she felt – in her fourth and probably final Asian Games outing – was clear for all to see.
Pandelela was only 17 when she made her debut in Guangzhou in 2010 with a bronze in the event.
She finished sixth and seventh in Incheon (2014) and in Jakarta (2018) respectively.
Finally, at the age of 30, it all came together again in the final at the Hangzhou Aquatic Sports Centre yesterday.
“I feel so lucky and blessed. It means a lot. I’m actually speechless because a lot of emotion is coming through. I did well at the world championships last year (bronze in Budapest) but I fumbled in the Commonwealth Games (in Birmingham). I didn’t get any medals.
“Today was not my best performance but it’s much better than what I managed in the morning (preliminary),” she gushed through tears.
Pandelela, the oldest participant in the final, was fourth and almost 10 points behind Japan’s Matsuri Arai with two dives to go.
However, the Sarawakian overtook the Japanese after earning 60.80 in her fourth dive while Arai only managed 50.40.
Pandelela held on with 48.00 for a total of 280.50 points, confirming the bronze medal as her Japanese rival notched the same score to just miss out with her total of 279.30.
Pandelela had every reason to be proud of her performance and to share the podium with China’s diving stars Quan Hongchan and Chen Yuxi. The two Chinese girls were just toddlers when the Sarawakian made her Asiad debut in Guangzhou.
Hongchan, the reigning Olympic champion and only 16, scored a stunning 94.40 on her final dive to take her second gold in her Asiad debut with a total of 438.20 points.
Her 18-year-old teammate Chen Yuxi, a two-time world champion in the individual event, secured the silver for China with 435.65 points.
A podium finish had looked remote for Pandelela after she barely scraped through the preliminary round in sixth place with 239.35 points. Only the top eight got to the final.
“This year, I fumbled in the world championships (in Fukuoka) but I got two medals in the Asian Games. “So I feel like God is fair,” said Pandelela, holding back her tears.
She had partnered Nur Dhabitah Sabri to win bronze in the women’s 10m platform synchro on Sunday.
“I have to thank her. After winning that medal, I found my peace of mind. I know that as long as I do my best, I just have to hope for the best.
“I also have to thank the National Sports Institute masseurs and staff. I felt stiff after the preliminary but I went for massage.”